Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Shakespeare in the Living Room

The Times reports that the Ohio Theater has six months to figure out how to pay competitive rent to their greedy new landlord:(http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/22/theater/22Ohio.html?ref=theater).

This is sad, of course. But, for me, it's also surreal. The little, struggling theaters are always on the verge of closing. But these bigger spaces are just, you know, THERE. The Ohio Theater doesn't just cease to exist!

Theater is all about space. To tell a story, you have to block out distractions. As the size of the audience increases, the steps you have to take to shut out distractions grow more complicated.
Most of the challenges we face in theater spring from our collective idea about what level of complexity must be achieved to make a storytelling event qualify as "theater."
If I get some actors to perform a Shakespeare play in my living room for four weeks, does it count? Would it qualify? Let me put it another way: how quickly would an actor drop out if another opportunity came up? He'd say, "I'm really sorry, but ..." But what? But this other thing is a real production. Why is it real? Because it will occur in a space set aside for doing plays.

We all collectively draw a line. On this side is activity that uses theater-related abilities. On that side is a "real play." Of course, attitudes in this regard differ from individual to individual, but the collective result is that theater that matters has to take place in an indoor space used exclusively for performance.

Therefore, theater is real estate.

Think about this. Think about what we all go through to find a place to live in New York. Nothing makes the people back in North Dakota think we're complete idiots for living here more than the rent we pay and the tiny boxes we get for that rent.

Now imagine that you have to rent a 3-bedroom apartment in a doorman building on the upper east side to present your cross-dressing version of "The Taming of The Shrew."

Everything you experience both doing and consuming theater is a correlation of real estate. The texture of the toilet paper. The stray extension cord. The graphics on the flyer. The tear in the seat. The wobbly set piece. The house slippers peeping out under Julius Caesar's toga. It all goes back to real estate.

We need to redraw the line.

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